- As Nigeria battles with a battered electoral image amidst huge burden of guilt
Nigeria’s electoral journey over the years is such that has been laced with so much hiccups and mishaps for as long as anyone can remember.
Every four years (within its civilian rule), Nigerians have faithfully trooped out to cast their vote in the general elections with the hopes of electing political representatives of their choice hoping that these same representatives will deliver to them the dividends of democracy but quite unfortunately, this same process has been fraught with so much controversies with the resultant effect of results being rejected by contenders who regularly cite vote buying, violence, and the likes as reasons.
A classic case here is that of the 2019 Presidential election and the controversies it has generated and continues to generate.
The general election has been reported to have been floored on multiple counts and this attested to by international observers.
The European Union in its report on the election had attested to the fact that the election was marred by several irregularities. Part of its report are as follows:
Overall, the EU EOM concluded the elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems and low turnout. Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability. Leading parties, the EU EOM said, were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.
The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation, with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed. The EU EOM reported that this damaged the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. During collation of the federal results, EU observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states.
The European Union report needless to say was a strong indictment on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Atiku who was the main challenger of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election has since gone on to petition the Presidential Elections Petition Tribunal to contest the result of the election which he alleges he won as against what was declared by the electoral body.
At the petition tribunal, the electoral body has been embroiled in the controversy over its use or otherwise non use of a central server for transmitting the results of the presidential election to which it has declared that it did not make use of any server as the electoral act did not approve of such and moreover the approval for the budget wasn’t given on time by the presidency.
Just yesterday the Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday advised its Electoral Officers who participated in the 2019 general elections to be tolerant of criticisms as it says there is no electoral process that is perfect.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated these in Abuja during a review of the 2019 general elections with 387 EOs from the 19 Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory.
He said, “Anything (criticism) that anybody is going to say about the conduct of (2019) elections in Nigeria is secondary to the kind of information we are going to hear from those who truly conducted elections at the level that matters; at the level of the Polling Units.
“Where we should be criticized, I consistently say that friends will criticise you, but your enemies will condemn you. But criticism is the basis for making any system work. No democracy and no electoral process is perfect. Every democracy is work in progress.
“So, feel free to make suggestions on all the issues relating to the whole process of conducting elections.
You have the protection of the chairman that whatever you say will not be used against you.”
Yakubu said despite all the difficulties witnessed, the commission registered over 14 million new voters within 18 months, due to the diligence of the EOs at the local government levels.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Planning, Monitoring and Strategy Committee, Dr Mustapha Lecky, in the report said the 2019 general elections would not have been concluded until the submission, validation and publication of a report by the commission.
The report, according to him, is part of the commission’s responsibilities to Nigerians.
Lecky said the review was aimed at evaluating the conduct of the elections and learn vital lessons.
He added that the review will afford the commission the opportunity to review its policies and programmes which would serve as a roadmap to 2023 general elections.
He said, “Our primary job of conducting election, in this case the just concluded 2019 general elections, will not be deemed to have been completely concluded until a report of the 2019 general elections is submitted, validated and published as part of INEC accountability to Nigerians.
“This process is essentially a sort of SWOT analysis, involving identification of our strengths, performance, weaknesses or lapses, opportunities missed or taken, as well as impediments, bottlenecks and/or threats uncovered across all the processes before, during and the fallouts since the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
“The commission is aiming to be comprehensive in its attempts to review all the issues connected to the general election; from preparation through execution and its aftermath, hence the review timetable and schedule of activities has provided for consultations at multi-levels.
“The commission, over the past two weeks undertook state-level reviews, in each and every state of the federation. All the EOs present at this meeting were part of their respective states review exercise. Nevertheless, because of the very critical roles that EOs play in our elections, it was deemed fit to have a more focused discussion with them, with a slightly modified template to dig deeper with regards to certain issues.
“In addition, we feel there is value to be added by pairing EOs across states for them to share experiences and make more robust recommendations arising from this cross-fertilization of experiences and ideas.”
With the above submission of the electoral body by its officers, it appears the commission is inadvertently acknowledging its error in the conduct of the 2019 general election.
One wonders if the electoral body is now admitting its wrong.
Going down memory lane, the only presidential election that has been adjudged to be free and fair was the 1993 presidential election and sadly the same election was annulled.
The electoral body right now is living with the burden of delivering to Nigerians a credible, free and fair election which will be devoid of all the short comings that has been noted by the body itself as well as Nigerians and even International monitoring organisations.
Giving its recommendations, the EU noted the following measures should be done going forward:
1. Strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes.
2. Establish requirements in law for full results transparency, with data easily accessible to the public.
3. Considerably strengthen INEC’s organisational and operational capacity, as well as its
4. The inter-agency body responsible for electoral security to work more transparently and inclusively, with regular consultations with political parties and civil society.
5. Introduce a legal requirement for political parties to have a minimum representation
of women among candidates.
6. Electoral tribunals to also cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time.
7. Reform the licensing system for the broadcast media to provide for media pluralism and diversity in all of Nigeria’s states.
One hopes that very soon, Nigeria will celebrate the conduct of an election that will indeed meet international standards and be the pride of every citizen.
Lets have your thoughts below.